DIY Pantry Shelves: How to Build Your Kitchen Pantry Shelving (2023)



Perfect for handy homeowners.

Time to complete

3 hours

Add about a day to let the paint or stain dry.



You’ll spend a lot on supplies, but you may still save money by DIYing.

Need professional help with your project?

Get quotes from top-rated pros.

What you'll need:


  • Paintbrush or roller
  • Miter saw
  • Drill
  • Stud finder
  • Level


  • Wood stain or paint
  • 3/4-inch thick plywood or pine boards
  • 1-by-2 board
  • 2-by-2 board
  • Painter's tape
  • Stainless steel brackets or brads
  • Pencil
  • Caulk
(Video) How To Build Easy DIY Pantry Shelves | Small Pantry Makeover On A Budget EP.1

From your growing collection of spatulas to multiple boxes of your favorite cereal, kitchens have a way of accumulating lots of stuff. You can transform your kitchen space and streamline your cupboard contents by adding pantry shelves inside your existing pantry using plywood, solid wood, or MDF boards. Learn how to build DIY pantry shelves in this seven-step guide.

Prepping to Install Pantry Shelves

Before diving into this DIY project, follow these prep steps for best results.

Determine Your Shelving Needs

Most savvy homeowners can build simple shelves, especially if they purchase a pre-assembled closet organizing system. On the other hand, custom pantry shelves, heavy-duty shelves with specific weight ratings, or serious pantry organization strategies require more planning.

Begin by asking yourself: What are your pantry shelving needs? What do you plan to store on the shelves? Measure the pantry space from floor to ceiling to determine the total space. Next, determine how many shelves you need to store all your go-to items. Head back into the kitchen and measure the tallest items you plan to keep on each shelf.

Remember that not all shelves need to be the same distance apart. For example, you should leave extra space between the floor and the first shelf to store taller items that do best on the floor, such as large bins, small appliances, or heavy storage. Moving up the wall, designate each shelf for either tall, short, or mid-sized items.

Here's an example:

  • 20 inches from the floor to the first shelf

  • 12 inches from the first to the second shelf

  • 16 inches from the second to the third shelf

  • 10 inches from the third to the fourth shelf

    (Video) Simple Pantry Shelving

  • 20 inches from the fourth shelf to the ceiling

This breakup allows plenty of space for heavy tall items on the floor and lighter, rarely used items on the top shelf. Shorter shelves make way for cans, small containers, and baskets, whereas taller ones are ideal for tall jars and boxes.

Remember to consider the width of your pantry boards, brackets, and trim board when determining your measurements.If you plan to install lighting or complete other projects along the way, it might be worth connecting with a local kitchen remodeling or renovation specialist.

DIY Pantry Shelves: How to Build Your Kitchen Pantry Shelving (1)

Evaluate Which Shelf-Style Is the Best Fit

Look inside your pantry and evaluate what shelving style will fit best in the space. Here are some options to consider:

  1. Mock Up Your Shelves With Tape

    As much a visualization exercise as a foundational step for installing cabinets, use painter's tape—and a level—to mark off where to install your shelves.

    Line the tapeexactly one inch below where your shelf will hang so it sits just under where you will install the 1-by-2 wood support strips. This way, you can install the boards right on top of the tape line and then rip the tape away after installation.

    Always use a stud finder to determine where you should secure the shelves to the wall. Mark these spots with a pencil. Wall studs are usually 16 inches apart but could be as far as 24 inches.

  2. Cut Your Plywood Shelves to Fit Your Pantry

    DIY Pantry Shelves: How to Build Your Kitchen Pantry Shelving (2)

    Photo: jenyateua / Adobe Stock

    (Video) DIY Kitchen Pantry Cabinet

    Here are the cuts and pieces of wood you'll need for your new DIY pantry shelf:

    • 3/4-inch thick plywood, wood, or MDF boards

    • 1-by-2 boards

    Plywood, pine, and MDF are the most common and affordable types of wood used for shelves. You can also find edge-glue board lumber at your local hardware store, often with mitered outer edges for a rounded look. While MDF is often the least expensive option, it can crumble when sawed and is more likely to buckle with too much weight.

    Based on your earlier measurements and wall markings, determine how many pieces of wood you need for 1-by-2 support strips and the 3/4-inch shelf boards. You will need to place one 1-by-2 strip below each board for initial support. Always measure twice and cut once. Use a miter or circular saw to cut each piece to size.

    If you're not working with pre-cut shelving boards, you will also need to determine the depth of your shelves. Standard shelves are 12 and 24 inches deep, depending on space, and it’s standard to have 12 to 16 inches in height between each shelf. Consider a less-deep shelf at the top of the pantry for better accessibility.

  3. Paint or Stain Your Boards

    Like other areas in your kitchen, pantry shelves face a lot of wear and tear. Adding a coat of paint or staining and sealing the wood can keep your shelves looking fresher longer. You'll also need to stain and paint the wood strips for a streamlined look.

    If you opt for paint, choose a high or semi-gloss sheen to make them easier to clean and stronger against kicks from soup cans or storage bins. However, if you have extra time, consider a polyurethane stain and sealant to retain the natural wood look.

    Be sure to follow the instructions on your paint, stain, or sealant can and wait for drying before installing the shelves.

  4. Install the Wood Strips

    The 1-by-2 wood strips are the support base for your shelves against the walls, so they need to be secured carefully. Move along the painter's tape line you marked earlier and make new marks for where each stud sits along the shelf. Double-check your strips with a level one last time before securing them.

    Using a screw gun and three-inch screws, connect the wood strips along each shelf base along the back wall, adding a screw at each stud. Next, add the strips to the side walls where the short edges of the shelves will sit.

    (Video) NO PANTRY? NO PROBLEM! Creating More Storage in Your Kitchen

  5. Mount Your Shelving

    Starting with the bottom shelf, mount each board on top of the wood strips. You can use a nail gun to attach them to the strips or add a screw every two feet into pre-drilled holes in the strip below. You may need to make small adjustments to your shelf boards if you're installing an L-shaped or U-shaped pantry. Sand down or adjust the length of your board in the corners to find the right fit before securing.

  6. Reinforce Your Shelves

    Your shelves are not ready to go until you've reinforced them with metal or wooden brackets. Attach a metal L-bracket under the front edge of where each shelf meets the wall.

    If you're building an L- or U-shaped cabinet, add a flat corner brace under the transition of each corner of the pantry shelf. You can also choose to add a DIY wooden brace with leftover 1-by-2 wood, with at least two braces below each side of the shelf.

  7. Apply Caulk

    Caulk is an optional final step to seal any gaps at the back of your shelves or where two separate shelves meet. Add a line of caulk to the seams of the pantry and over the screw for a clean look and additional reinforcement. Let the caulk dry before adding items to the pantry.

DIY Building Pantry Shelves vs. Hiring a Pro

Shelves can be a costly project to outsource, especially in the kitchen. You'll pay about $20 per square foot in labor when budgeting the costs to install a pantry. A small pantry of 25 square feet can cost $500, plus the cost of materials.

A basic build using MDF boards, plywood, pine boards, or even wire shelves will take you only a few hours of work to install—minus dry time—and can be a perfectly suitable option.

However, always consider hiring a kitchen remodeling contractor if you want pantry shelves that feature electric hookups for lights, appliances, or shelves that need to hold ample weight.

Frequently Asked Questions

The depth of your pantry shelves should range between 12 and 24 inches, depending on how high it sits on the wall and your pantry size. Higher shelves should fall on the thinner side since it is harder to reach deep shelving areas the higher you go.

(Video) DIY built-in pantry shelves without support posts


What is the best material to build pantry shelves with? ›

Plywood is the go-to material used for pantry shelves. It's versatile, available in virtually any species of hardwood, and can easily be cut using any table saw. Plywood is ideal for pantry shelves because its edges can be finished with wood trim or iron-on veneer banding.

What is the best depth for pantry shelves? ›

Don't go too deep. Most experts recommend that pantry shelves be no more than 12 inches deep. Any more, and things begin to get buried.

What is the standard height of pantry shelves? ›

There are magic numbers to figuring out shelf heights.

Here are some general rules. Allow 6.5 to 7 inches for a shelf of canned goods. Allow 14 to 16 inches for cereal boxes. Allow 18 to 20 inches for large items, like bins of potatoes.

How do you make an easy pantry? ›

8 Smart Ways to Create a Pantry in Even the Tiniest Kitchen
  1. Repurpose a bookshelf. ...
  2. Go between the studs. ...
  3. Use your wall. ...
  4. Slide it next to the fridge. ...
  5. Rethink the coat closet. ...
  6. Hang dry goods from your upper cabinets. ...
  7. Devote a cabinet. ...
  8. Hang shelves anywhere you can.
Dec 10, 2022

What material can I use for shelves? ›

  • Solid timber. ...
  • Edge laminated softwood board. ...
  • Chipboard. ...
  • MDF. ...
  • Blockboard. ...
  • Plywood. ...
  • Glass. ...
  • Shelf stiffener.

What kind of plywood do you use for pantry shelves? ›

Types of Wood

Shelf: Finish-grade plywood is ideal for the shelves, as it can be cut to a variety of widths while maintaining a low cost per shelf. The unsightly plywood edge can easily be covered with a front trim piece. Front trim piece.

How do you fully stock a pantry? ›

Getting Started
  1. Clear the decks. Take everything out of your pantry, give it a hard look and decide what you can get rid of. ...
  2. Keep what looks and smells good. “Expiration,” “sell by,” and “best by” dates are not good guidelines. ...
  3. Assess what remains. ...
  4. Fill in the blanks with food that will make you a better cook.

What is a good shelf height? ›

Additionally, as far as height from the ground goes, much like artwork, shelves should be hung near eye level or about four to five feet from the floor.

What is the standard width of a pantry shelf? ›

The bottom shelf of a standard pantry is typically 16 to 18 inches deep, and the space is 18 to 24 inches apart. If you want to store large items, the shelf should be 12 to 14 inches deep, and the space should be around 14 to 16 inches to leave enough room for bulky items like containers and cereal boxes.

What is good shelf spacing? ›

As a reference, standard shelf spacing is between 8 to 12 inches. If you want to house entertainment equipment in the same unit, you'll need shelves from 18 to 20 inches deep (for most systems).

How do I build my own built in shelves? ›

  1. Take Measurements for Your Built-In Bookshelves. ...
  2. Choose Wood for Your Bookshelves. ...
  3. Cut the Support Frame, Side Panels and Shelves. ...
  4. Drill Holes Inside Each Panel. ...
  5. Paint Wood and Attach Side Panels and Top Shelf. ...
  6. Attach the Frame Support. ...
  7. Attach Bottom Shelf and Baseboard. ...
  8. Add Books and Decor.

How do you make a strong shelf? ›

You can increase the stiffness of a shelf by sinking screws into it through the solid back of the case. Or, as shown below, add more strength and maintain adjustability by attaching a cleat or molding to the front of the shelf. Aprons can also be added under the shelf.

How do you build pantry shelves without studs? ›

When there is no stud where you need to attach the wall cleat, first, predrill a hole through the wall cleat and just a tiny bit into your drywall. Then where you drilled into the drywall, insert a heavy duty wall anchor, Then attach your cleats to the wall anchor.

How can I improve my small pantry? ›

  1. Upcycle Storage You Already Have. Before you go out and buy new stuff, take a look at storage items you're not using around the house. ...
  2. Keep Canned Goods Contained. ...
  3. Use a Lazy Susan. ...
  4. Invest in Pro Shelving. ...
  5. Go Old-School With Canning Jars. ...
  6. Consider Horseshoe Shelves. ...
  7. Opt for Cubbies Over Large Shelves. ...
  8. Label Your Heart Out.

How do you build a depression pantry? ›

More Frugal Pantry Inspiration from the Great Depression
  1. Dried Beans and Dried Peas. Meat was not as frequently used at dinner time during this time, but beans were very much used! ...
  2. Potatoes. ...
  3. Spices and Salt. ...
  4. Rice. ...
  5. Canned Green Peas and Green Beans. ...
  6. Cured Meats like Hot Dogs. ...
  7. Dandelions. ...
  8. Pasta.

What should you not put in a pantry? ›

12 Items You Should Never Store in Your Pantry, According to...
  1. Maple syrup. "Maple syrup will grow moldy outside the fridge, especially the organic varieties." — Judy Joo, celebrity chef and cookbook author of Korean Soul Food. ...
  2. Cold-pressed oils. ...
  3. Chocolate. ...
  4. Cured meats. ...
  5. Bread. ...
  6. Chocolate chip cookies. ...
  7. Fish sauce.
Nov 19, 2022

How much weight should a pantry shelf hold? ›

TLDR: A floating shelf can hold 45-50 pounds for every wall stud that your floating shelf bracket is attached to. For instance, a 3' shelf that's attached to two wall studs can safely support ~100 pounds. Likewise, a 2' shelf bracket attached to two wall studs can easily support the same ~100 pounds.

How do you reenforce pantry shelves? ›

Drill a number of holes the same size as those used for the shelf support pegs on either side, then insert additional peg supports (purchased at any hardware store or home center.) Replace and reload your shelves, and presto up-o, they'll be good as new. They'll stay that way, too.

What can I use for cheap shelves? ›

For the cheapest shelves, use thin plywood and basic 2×4″ lumber. These shelves will be functional but may sag if the weight of the items you store is too heavy. For heavier items or wider spaces between supports, use thicker plywood. High-quality plywood resists sagging when heavier items are stored on the shelves.

Is it cheaper to make or buy shelves? ›

Like DIY shelves, ready‑made options also have some cons: Increased Cost – Buying shelves is more costly than buying the materials to make them. Durability – Don't forget that you get what you pay for – if the shelves are cheaply made, they may not provide the strength and durability needed for long term use.

What is the best sheet wood for shelves? ›

Which Wood is the Strongest for a Bookshelf? If the cost of the materials is not a concern, woods like mahogany, African padauk, and koa are considered the best woods for bookshelves, thanks to their durability, strength, and longevity.

How thick should plywood be for shelves? ›

The most common size used in shelving is a 3/4 inch thickness. Cabinetry, furniture, and smaller decorative projects might generally use a combination of 1/2 and 3/4 and occasionally 1/4 inch.

How can I stock my pantry for cheap? ›

How To Stock A Pantry On A Budget
  1. Think about what kind of meals you may be making.
  2. Take note of your current pantry items so you don't duplicate them.
  3. Shop the sales (including BOGO and 10 for $10).
  4. Only buy things you know your family will eat. ...
  5. Buy in bulk.
  6. Don't buy everything at once.

In what order should a pantry be organized? ›

Set up Your Organized Pantry
  1. Start with the middle shelves. These are the easiest to see and access, so load them with daily-use items such as dinner or lunch-making supplies, or with food you want to keep in sight, such as healthy snacks.
  2. Move on to bottom shelves. ...
  3. Finish up with top shelves.
Feb 10, 2021

What is a good size pantry? ›

According to the experts, the average walk in pantry size should have at least a width of 5 feet by length of 5 feet. This will offer ample space for shelves (and countertops if you choose) and to ensure a minimum walkway of 36 inches for one person.

What is typical shelf depth? ›

Shelf depth is determined by the size of the items to be stored, generally within the range of 6 to 24 inches. Shelf depth for a general purpose bookshelf is usually 10 to 12 inches. Shelf spacing will generally range from 7 to 15 inches with 8 to 12 inches being common for bookshelves.

Should pantry shelves be lined? ›

#1 Using Shelf Liner Helps Protect Your Cabinets From Moisture. Using shelf helps protect your cabinets against water stains and rings from not-quite-dry dishes and oil and stain rings from the bottoms of bottles and jars. ​If the surface is in great shape, a liner helps keep it that way.

How do you make strong shelves? ›

You can increase the stiffness of a shelf by sinking screws into it through the solid back of the case. Or, as shown below, add more strength and maintain adjustability by attaching a cleat or molding to the front of the shelf. Aprons can also be added under the shelf.

How do I organize my pantry slide out? ›

Group like items together. For example, put all of your larger canned goods in one group, smaller canned goods in another, and boxed items in another. Assign each group or combination of groups a different shelf in your pantry and make sure you stick to your system.

What can I use instead of shelf liner? ›

The following DIY drawer and cabinet lining solutions won't cost you a dime:
  • Wax paper.
  • Wrapping paper.
  • Extra rolls of wallpaper.
  • Leftover linoleum flooring sheets.
  • Starched pieces of leftover fabric.
Aug 23, 2020

What is the best line for shelving? ›

If you're seeking a fancy shelf liner, solid grip, paper, and beaded grip materials are good solutions. Plastic and polypropylene liners are also a decent option for protecting your shelves and easy cleaning.

What is the best way to line shelves? ›

The surface of the shelf or drawer will determine what type of liner will work best. Open wire shelves need stiff plastic liners so smaller objects won't slip through. Wood cabinet shelves can use flexible liners with adhesive or foam liners without adhesive.


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